Loremageddon 2019, Day Two: the Loar, the Warlocks’ Brotherhood, and Shepla

Welcome, readers mine–and all my fellow writers, of course!–to Day Two of Loremageddon! No need for any maundering buildup this time. It’s a day for Cannoan lore, I judge! Firstly, the Gaunt Ones themselves, the butcherous Loar! Then, a spellcaster’s fraternity of a more mercenary bent, and last–a verdant goddess of the wilds. Let’s jump in!

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Snippet #1: Elements of Loar Culture (World: Canno)

Though the Loar War lasted ten years, it obviously provided little opportunity for cultural interchange; what the Cannoans learned about their relentless enemies they thus learned either through direct visual analysis, or by piecing together Loar writings after final victory. The below are the most commonly agreed-upon examples:

The Loar language was peculiar for having completely separate verbal and written forms. The verbal form, naturally, consisted only of those sounds which Loar anatomy permitted them to speak. Those sounds which required lips to form fluently or at all, especially the B, M, P, and V sounds, were omitted from this version. The Loar regarded this, naturally enough, as the “practical” dialect, preferring it for military, political, and work applications. Its words are mostly four syllables in length or less to account for the natural stiffness of speech when coming from an exoskeletal body.

The written Loar language, however, includes not only all the sounds with which a human might be familiar, but all those the Loar had ever heard and desired to include. Whether or not the Loar themselves could reproduce these sounds influenced nothing! The Loar regarded this as desirable both in the sense that it turned the written language into its own sort of code, and for the unparalleled variety it lent to their writings.

Both of the above factors tied in well with a Loar philosophical belief that writing was a direct—albeit slower—transmission of thought whereas speech, functioning as it did through vibrations which themselves only somewhat reflected the movement of bodily organs attempting to interpret the mind’s commands, was less effective, but also less intimate.

Loar fashion focused heavily on flattering the exoskeleton’s lines and particular features rather than obscuring them entirely; clothes were cut for calculated exposure rather than warmth or to change the body’s shape completely. Each Loar had a unique crest from birth, which grew larger with age and often came to look like an abstract symbol; careful grooming allowed them to add points, nodules, and angles where they desired.

Engraving the outer exoskeletal plates was a common practice, as was filing them down at certain points along the rim or even all the way across in order to adjust shapes, silhouette, and proportions. The fact that this made the Loar more vulnerable to attack fostered different responses; some viewed this as a way to assert their warrior skill—implying they would never be struck in any case—whereas others considered weakening the exoskeleton for aesthetic purposes irresponsible, a betrayal to the larger Loar military.

Snippet #2: The Warlocks’ Brotherhood (World: Canno)

The Warlocks’ Brotherhood, despite their name—which has been carried down from prior ages when gender exclusivity was not only socially acceptable, but at least slightly viable for an order of mages—accept members from every gender, sex, and species providing that said members are competent mages. They have thus become the premier representatives for mercenary mages.

Though only a few members survived the Loar War, they were able to maintain the Brotherhood’s sophisticated organizational methods as well as its most valuable asset: its pedigree! The Brotherhood has a well-earned reputation for professionalism and loyalty, at least within the context of an established contract. It’s old enough and powerful enough to maintain a great citadel-tower within the Rank-and-Defile, the heavily-fortified rift valley which serves as a hub for all Canno’s mercenaries.

The Brotherhood offers some of the best possible instruction for mages on Canno, with separate specializations to fill a wide variety of battlefield and clandestine roles. The title “Warlock” means nothing other than indicating that the mage in question has been trained and accredited by the Brotherhood. This in itself commands much more competitive pay-rates, however, and the Brotherhood are therefore ruthless in hunting down any who use the title without earning it.

At the same time they are always practical, and provided the liars are otherwise competent, the Brotherhood remains open to cutting a deal and pretending the new hires were in the organization all along—after all, doing this makes everyone look good!

Warlocks are further divided into four general categories: spellswords, who are intuitively understood to be those who intermix weapons and magic to maximize single-target damage potential and anchor a line in melee as well as being the best choice for stealth operations and off-battlefield work, wardists, who as their name implies are focused purely on defensive magic and damage mitigation, “coordinates-arcane”, who maintain communications and information amidst the chaos of battle, and the most sought-after category, the arcano-surgeon.

These last, of course, are among the few mages with both the mental traits and knowledge which allow them to work as healers.

While it does somewhat limit the Brotherhood’s ability to take contracts, its leaders have long since determined that the organization as a whole does better when the above specializations are kept together as cohesive teams. An experienced quartet comprised of a spellsword, a wardist, a coordinate-arcane and an arcano-surgeon can easily double the combat effectiveness of a full infantry battalion, if not better.

The Brotherhood compensate for the cost of keeping a reserve pool on standby through charging more for the most skilled quartets—or the most prestigious, which aren’t always the same thing!

Snippet #3: Shepla, “She of Thorns and Bracken” (World: Canno)

Shepla’s title is deeply unfair to the goddess of wild flora and fauna. She receives ire from most mortals for the simple reason that she refuses to cater to them. Unlike most of Canno’s pantheon, Shepla appears to be a true primordial deity—neither an upjumped spirit nor a goddess brought into existence by directed worship, she is beholden to mortals only in the sense that the Pact constrains her interactions with them.

Her sparsity of worshippers severely limits her agency in populated regions. Shepla openly despises the term “civilized”, seeing it as pretentious, which helps nothing. The goddess cherishes nature free and unrestrained. She’s maligned, for the most part unfairly, as hating humans, ilbaret, and other sapient animals. The truth is that Shepla is ambivalent towards them, loving the plants and wilds for what they are. She can, and indeed has been documented to, develop considerable affection towards individual mortals.

However, Shepla sees the common insistence on hacking down forests to make room for cities as a direct assault upon both herself and her domain. When asked, she’s observed that mortals are quick enough to harness magic or demons or even divine favors to create more space once this “easy” supply has been exhausted—why not skip to that part and leave her precious wilderness alone? Farmers, who worship Hosri instead, tend to call Shepla “she of the Nagging Frond” as if her common epithet weren’t insulting enough; they consider her an obnoxious relic who should have faded from her divinity millennia ago.

Indeed, Shepla’s persistence baffles most theologians; she has so few worshippers that she ought to be weaker than most demons, let alone gods, yet she has openly clashed with Hosri—goddess of agriculture and animal husbandry—several times and is even rumored to have gone directly against the Pact on one occasion. Namely, Shepla drove off a small army of brush-cutters to protect the unparalleled biodiversity held within the rift-jungles beneath and around the Crystalline Conclave of Anseth.

Otherwise, though Shepla cannot act towards mortals who do not worship her, she holds total dominion over any and all wild places with which sapient beings do not interact. She uses this with abandon, creating new varieties of wild plants and feral animals whenever the mood takes her. She and Hosri loathe each other completely, of course.

When she chooses to manifest, Shepla does so as a ten-foot tall mass of shifting dark purple or black vines and green thorns approximating the exposed sinew of a massively muscular woman. Instead of hair, she has a mane of wolfish fur sprouting around her collarbone—or collar-roots, rather—and a great mane of gold, brass, and blood red feathers with black trim covering her head and running down her neck.

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And just like that, Day Two is squared away! As always, let me know your thoughts in the comments, leave a like, and share this post with your friends. If you should decide to partake in Loremageddon yourselves, drop me a line–let’s see if we can’t make this a thing! Otherwise, follow me on Twitter if you’d like to keep up with my day-to-day musings.

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